What to Do After A Dog Bite Injury In Northern Virginia

By Peter DePaolis

Dog bites are more serious than you might think. The CDC reports that approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten every year by dogs, and about 800,000 of those require medical attention. Children are especially vulnerable to serious injury and account for about half of dog bite victims. If you or a loved one were bitten, you have legal rights. The Northern Virginia personal injury attorneys of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP can help.

What should you do after a dog bite injury?

The first thing you need to do after a dog bite is to seek medical attention, even for apparently minor injuries. There’s a high risk of infection with dog bites, and you may require antibiotics. Getting treated will also create a paper trail and document important medical information related to the injury.

If you’re able to locate the dog’s owner, it’s important to ask for proof the dog is up to date on its shots. Rabies vaccinations are required for all dogs in Virginia. Of course, many owners are not responsible, which could spell medical problems for you. You also may be at risk for bacterial infections like staph and strep, which are serious.

Get the dog owner’s name and contact information, as well as a general description of the dog such as its breed. Get a copy of any documentation the owner provides. Whether the owner cooperates or not, you should call the police and make a report of the incident. Be sure to also note details such as when, where, and what time the bite occurred.

Take a picture of the wound and, if possible, the dog. If there were witnesses to the attack, get their names and contact information. Save any clothing that was torn during the attack. Other than the owner’s name and information about the dog, it’s a good idea not to discuss the matter with that person. Owners are often defensive of their dogs and could become aggressive towards you.

Besides the risk of rabies and infections, other injuries caused by a dog bite might include:

  • Deep puncture wounds and cuts
  • Broken bones
  • Dislocations
  • Amputations
  • Nerve damage
  • Avulsion (skin or tissue ripped away)

Children are at risk of more serious injuries, and a bite from a particularly aggressive dog can even be fatal. Provide as much information about the dog and the bite to your doctor so proper treatment can be administered.

Virginia’s “One Bite” Rule

Virginia has what is called the “one bite” rule. The rule applies where:

  • The owner knew, or should have reasonably known, that the dog was dangerous or aggressive
  • The owner acted negligently in light of that knowledge
  • This negligence caused you or a loved one to suffer injuries

A classic example would be letting a dog roam off-leash in a park or public area, despite knowing it to be aggressive. However, not all cases are this clear cut. It’s up to you to show that the owner failed to take reasonable steps to protect others from a dangerous animal.

If the injury happened on the owner’s residential or commercial property, their insurance may contact you and offer a settlement. Before accepting a settlement offer from the owner or an insurance company, it’s important to talk with a dog bite attorney. Medical costs could be significant, especially if the injuries are worse than initially suspected or the victim is a child. These are not costs that the victim should incur. But if you sign a settlement agreement, you may waive your rights to demand more compensation.

Let the team at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP discuss your legal options and demand the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Call us today to schedule your initial consultation.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.